A friend of mine is a teacher. She recognizes how each child brings a different level of self esteem to school every day. "I quantify these differences into something tangible, and I've always used Poker Chips to illustrate the point."
"Let's say I've got a kid that is great in sports, or a whiz in computers. Good home life, feels pretty good about herself. So her self esteem is equivalent to one hundred poker chips.
Now you've got a kid, picked on, rough home life, he comes in holding six, maybe seven chips every day. But he's strong in History, and I happen to be teaching History first period."
"Remember, my job in teaching is to get kids to understand the process of learning, and part of that is based on who they are. What they believe they can do, how they process information within the timbre of their thoughts. I have to teach through the anxiety, the fear, the depression, the distraction, and set them up for success. Every single one of them."
"So, I play the short stacks first."
"On this morning, I start with the question, "Who was the President at the time of the World War II." History bores most of them. The girl computer whiz can say, "George Washington" and lose about five chips. No sweat off her nose, even if she gets chided a bit. But old short stack over there looks at me, slightly raises his hand, and puts it back down. See, he has only a few chips. He knows the answer, but if he gets it wrong, he won't be able to recover for a while. Torment, teasing is too much for him. So he's holding tight on that stack."
"But, if he doesn't risk success, that stack is never going to rise. Therefore, I see him do his thing with his hand, and I go over to him and say, "Whisper what you were thinking when you almost raised your hand." He whispers, "FDR." Now I take two steps back, look at the class, and look back at short stack and say, "Tell the class what you told me in a loud voice, please."
"FDR!" And you hear, "Oooooh..." from the class, because they didn't know the answer. We hadn't covered that yet. But that boy with the short stack nailed it!"
"This is how you play the short stack. As a teacher, learning requires me to get these kids prepared. Confidence and self assurance has to come into the mix. We have to know how these kids look at themselves, their strengths and weaknesses.You build on that. This is the foundation of their learning process."
"Because," she said, walking out of the classroom, "at the end of the year, no child is going to leave my classroom carrying a short stack."